These are scale models (often shot with high speed photography and occasionally combined with matte paintings) used to represent things that aren't there, are too expensive or difficult to film in reality, or which can't be damaged (by fire, flood or explosion) in real life.
Although they're now largely replaced by (often-appallingly-obvious) CGI (ILM, now completely digital, got rid of its model-shop and they struck out on their own for a few years - as Kerner Optical - but have since gone bankrupt), some threads of this fine art still exist. Christopher Nolan, for example, is a huge fan of miniature work and uses them extensively in his films (such as the chase sequence in "The Dark Knight").
Rather than show the obvious here (you've all seen people making models for "Star Wars"), I thought I'd highlight films and effects where it's not immediately obvious that you're looking at a miniature.
Black Narcissus (1947, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)
This wonderful film is filled with terrific examples of matte paintings but the one shot I'm going to highlight combines live-action, a large background miniature and a matte painting.
For Your Eyes Only (1981, directed by John Glen)
special effects supervised by Derek Meddings (for more details on him, see my post here)
|Top - still from film (Bond & Melina escape from the sunken St George to their Neptune sub)|
Bottom - A special effects man adjusts the Bond & Melina figures before the explosion (created by compressed air and flash bulbs)
|Dennis Muren manipulates the ET puppet (note that it has no legs) on a foreground miniature against a painted backdrop|
special effects supervised by Brian Johnson
|Okay, it's a sci-fi film set on a distant planet but did you guess that Ripley fighting the Queen on the loading bay was miniature work? James Cameron is the blonde man with the dark shirt in the foreground|
special effects by ILM
|Top image - still from film|
bottom image - miniature canyon, built by Paul Huston with painted matte backdrop by Mark Sullivan. This photograph was taken at the 'wrong' angle, which shows the join (and the various workbenches behind)
special effects by WETA
|Peter Jackson over a 50's Wellington street miniature|
note - there are lots and lots of miniatures in the Lord Of The Rings films, but I won't mention them here
special effects supervised by Chris Corbould, Venice model by Steve Begg
|Top - still from film|
Bottom - the model is collapsed in the Pinewood backlot pool, before being digitally composited into location plate footage
special effects supervised by Chris Corbould, miniatures effects by New Deal Studios
|Top image - still from film|
middle left - the crew behind the miniature garbage truck
middle right - technicians working on the Tumbler
bottom - the miniature set of the tunnels
The next "Movie Miniatures" post will be a celebration of ILM and their non-Star Wars work
Wow, they're fantastic!ReplyDelete
Cool entry, Mark.ReplyDelete
I've ALWAYS been amazed by movie miniatures in a weird geeky kind of way - especially when you are talking about early Godzilla movies.
Mind you, I am not a film geek. I am a film aficionado - which is Italian for "multi-syllabled film geek".
I took the liberty of tweeting about this post and putting it up on my Facebook page.
Thanks very much, Steve, I appreciate it!Delete